Livonia Churchill’s football team nearly erased a 21-point second-half deficit Friday night at Jackson, but the Vikings took advantage of a couple late Charger miscues to secure a 42-35 victory.
The result capped the Chargers’ up-and-down campaign at 5-5 while the Vikings advanced to next Friday’s 7 p.m. district final against visiting Livonia Franklin.
“I’m very proud of our kids for the way they fought to the end,” said Churchill head coach Bill DeFillippo. “We just had too many critical mistakes toward the end — a turnover, a dropped pass in the end zone, penalties — that will cost you when you’re playing a good team like Jackson.”
Offensively, the Chargers were bolstered by another strong rushing performance by Sean Stenzel and a pair of touchdown connections between junior quarterback Evan Cummins and Mike Hill.
After the Vikings surged to a quick 14-0 lead, the Chargers cut their deficit to 14-7.
However, a wild final four minutes of the first half proved costly to the visitors.
Jackson expanded its lead to 21-7 when it completed a fourth-and-6 TD pass. After the Chargers clawed back to within 21-14, a Viking special-teams player scooped up a squib kick with 33 ticks on the clock and scampered 50 yards to give Jackson the ball inside the Charger 10.
On the half’s final play, Jackson scored on a fade pass in the corner of the end zone to carry a 28-14 lead into the break.
Jackson held leads of 35-14 and 42-21 before the Chargers mounted a nearly-miraculous fourth-quarter comeback. After pulling to within 42-28, the Chargers’ defense made a huge stand to give the ball back to the offense, which marched down the field and scored, narrowing the gap to 42-35.
Another Churchill defensive stop gave the ball back to the Chargers near mid-field with three minutes left, but an unforced fumble derailed the drive.
The Chargers’ final gasp came with 90 seconds to play when it regained possession of the ball and drove to the Jackson 6. However, a second-down pass was dropped in the end zone, according to DeFillippo, followed by back-to-back incomplete passes.